After just getting off the plane from my USA adventures the weekend before, I was in desperate need of some Americana. To my surprise while strolling around Darling Harbour, they had opened the Hard Rock Cafe Sydney. I had to check it out. I wasn't expecting too much, since everything is usually "bigger and better" in the USA, but the franchise has done a great job with its Sydney adaptation.
Strangely, I have always associated the Hard Rock Café with the USA. In case you didn't know, the Hard Rock Café originated in London. It was designed as a place where commoners and rock stars alike could share a meal. Rumour has it that Eric Clapton enjoyed the place so much that he requested a plaque to be placed on the wall over his regular seat. The café asked for one of his guitars instead, which was promptly mounted to the wall and formed the first item of the café's extensive rock 'n' roll memorabilia collection, and the rest is history.
Now for all those who haven't been to "the States", assuming you stick to the east and west coasts, there is pretty much a Hard Rock Café everywhere. That's right, there's one in New York, one in Las Vegas and two in Los Angeles. Believe it or not there is even one in Orlando Florida, which is supposedly the biggest Hard Rock Café in the world. It is conveniently shaped to resemble the Roman Coliseum. With all this extra space it also doubles as a live music venue. The Sydney edition is not as extravagant. In fact, on first appearances it appears quite small. Don't be fooled, all the action is upstairs as it takes up the majority of the southern balcony area of Harbourside in Darling Harbour.
The venue has done a fantastic job with outfitting the place. There is rock 'n' roll memorabilia on nearly every wall and where there are no walls, there are windows and a balcony with views overlooking the sensational Cockle Bay. There might not be a rotating Cadillac above the bar like its USA counterparts, but there are nice touches to complement the rock star theme including a light fixture made from an entire drum kit. On arrival you will also notice a small stage with the potential for rock gigs. For a moment I honestly felt that I was back in the USA again. Compliments have to go out to the franchise for maintaining such a high standard and continuity. The café is definitely up to the standards of its USA editions.
Now on to the most important part, the menu, and as you would expect it is quite similar to other restaurants in the franchise with a bit of Australiana added in. This basically means that there is an Aussie burger which usually means that either beetroot, fried onion or fried egg have been included, if not all of the above. Where the difference does come in however is the taste and of course the price. Just to be original, I ordered the legendary 10 ounce burger which comes with fries. It is always good to compare the same dish that is also on the menu in the same restaurant in another country. Now I don't know what the reason is, whether it is the quality of the produce or the cooking method, but in this case with apologies to all the American readers out there, the Australian version tastes much better than the American version.
However, where the Australian version does fall is the price. In this case you are not looking at much change from $24, and that is before you have ordered a drink. Yes even with the Australian dollar so close to parity with the US dollar Sydneysiders still get taken for a ride. It may sound critical but think about it this way, a similar experience at the Hard Rock Café in Orlando Florida which includes the Classic 6 ounce burger, fries and unlimited refills of soda would cost you under $20. And yes, that includes the tip. Incidentally the Classic 6 ounce burger is just as big, if not bigger than Sydney's 10 ounce legendary burger. The USA may be lacking in the metric system but they definitely make up for it with generosity.
Anyone who has been to the USA also knows that this would have included great service. The question you have to ask yourself is do you get what you pay for in Sydney? In saying this, in my experience the service was quite good at the Hard Rock Café Sydney with the wait staff always looking out for the patrons.
Definitely try the Chocolate thick shake. For lack of a better word they "rock". Although you would expect a thick shake to taste good for $9. My tip would be to order one of the burgers if you are planning on trying the thick shake. This means you only have to fork out $6. You have to love capitalism.
Overall, the experience is great and the Hard Rock Café Sydney is a worthy edition to the franchise. It's not Michelin star, but that's not what you are there for. You're there to soak up a bit of rock 'n' roll history while having a feast with friends. If only there was a band playing.
Tried anything else on the menu? Feel free to leave your comments.
Duh, Adrian, there's been a Hard Rock Cafe in Sydney for decades. The one in Darling Harbour has gottta been around at least ten years and prior to that there was one in East Sydney going back to the early 80's. They both were/are famous for selling rubbishy food hugely overpriced and get their customers from visiting US warships, Yank tourists who can't last ten minutes without junk food, and people like yourself who sound like you worship anything from the good ol' U S of A. If you're happy to pay $24 for a burger and $9 for a milkshake then more fool you. I'll stick with the local stuff where I can get these for around $10 and $4 respectively.